The Freshman Fishwrap / IHTFP Gallery

Slide Rule and the Student Center Hairball

Location: W20 (Student Center Atrium)

Date: 4/29/90 -- 5/4/90

As part of Massachusetts' ``1% for the arts'' program, every major construction project at MIT must allocate 1% of the budget to providing art. With the 1988-90 student center renovation, this meant $75,000 was allocated for art. MIT, contracted local artist Mags Harries to provide the artwork. She planned to place a giant ``Hairball'' in the center of the student center atrium.

In the middle of the open stairwell structure between the 1st and 3rd floor of the student center Harries wanted to place a large structure made from ``processed'' human hair. This would have placed the artwork right in front of both the 24-hour Coffeehouse and Lobdell and in a location where it is impossible to avoid. The proposed artwork generated quite a controversy on campus and garnered general resentment from the student body. The plan also inspired a series of protest hacks.

On March 22, 1990, just before an open forum to discuss the artwork, students organized a responsive reading of ``Green Eggs and Hair'', a take off on Dr. Seuss's ``Green Eggs and Ham.'' ``Green Eggs and Hair'' pitted the people against the evil artistic hairball. The reading appealed greatly to the students...Mags Harries, the artist, was less amused.

Later that week, a Sculpture Testing had the frame of the structure, a giant shaman's hat, hanging in the Student Center atrium. Noting that the steel frame strongly resembled a cage, an anonymous hacker put a plate containing a pile of birdseed directly under the frame. A sign reading ``Acme Roadrunner Trap'' was placed next to the pile of birdseed.

On Monday, April 30th, an 8-foot long, fully-functional, clear slide rule appeared as an alternative to the hair sculpture. Signs placed around the Student Center proclaimed the presence of the slide rule as ``Alternate Sculpture Testing.'' Propaganda, mostly modelled after and parodying, the Institute's propaganda on the hair sculpture, appeared around campus. The propaganda does a fairly good job of capturing much of the anti-hair sculpture sentiments on campus during this controversy.

Monday evening happened to be the second public forum for discussion of the proposed student center artwork. A responsive reading of a slightly modified reprise to ``Green Eggs and Hair'', preceded the forum.

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